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To say we were a little sceptical when we first fired up the Vengeance 1500 headphones is a bit of an understatement. How could Corsair, a company best known for building steel boxes, understand the intricacies of building a set of headphones? After spending some quality time with these very affordable headphones, we're guessing that Corsair has hired some heavy-duty professionals to do the work for them. A dead giveaway is the fact that Corsair has used quality 50mm drivers (the small speakers mounted in each cup that transmit the sound), much larger than the 40mm drivers used in comparable headsets.
At just over AU$100, it's nice to see that Corsair has also included a digital sound processor (DSP), which is basically an external sound card. This is housed in a small box midway along the headphone cable, and the headphones plug in to the PC via USB. Corsair's website paradoxically suggests that the user needs on-board sound for these headphones to work, but it's incorrect — thanks to the DSP, all sound processing is handled by the headphones. In fact, if you've got a discrete sound card, such as a Sound Blaster or a Xonar, it won't be used at all. Unfortunately, due to the USB connection, these headphones can't be used with consoles.
The packaging is relatively plain, and there's not even a driver disk included. The headphones will work without drivers, but to tap into their true potential, you'll need to download the Vengeance software from the Corsair site. Note that the headphones must be plugged in before you can start installing the drivers, something that we only figured out after having five BSODs during the driver-install process.
The circumaural design fits snugly over each ear, while the adjustable headband ensures an extremely comfortable fit. The velvet material on each ear piece does get very warm, though, so you'll need to take a short break every hour or so to dry up the sweat. Despite the all-plastic construction, the build quality feels very sturdy. A microphone is included on a bendable boom for perfect positioning.
The DSP enables Dolby headphone support, which uses "Head-Related Transfer Function technology" to deliver surround sound over stereo speakers. Basically, it "tricks" the player into hearing in surround sound; things behind the player sound slightly muted, compared to things in front, and it works wonderfully. Positional awareness increases exponentially once the player is accustomed to the audio cues delivered by Dolby headphones. For such a cheap sound solution, we were extremely impressed by the sound quality delivered by the DSP-and-headphone combination. As well as having a very wide soundstage with accurate positioning, the actual audio quality was rather good. At default settings, they're lacking in bass, but a quick tweak of the Corsair equaliser resolved that issue. Compared to the Audio Technica headphones, the Corsairs are lacking detail in the mid and high ends, but they compare well to the other gaming-brand headsets.
Considering our expectations, we were pleasantly surprised by the Vengeance 1500 headphones. Delivering solid sound quality with a built-in DSP, it's hard to believe that they're not twice the price. They come highly recommended for the PC gamer on a budget.